Opening day in college basketball featured 126 games in which Division I teams faced off against one another, including all 25 teams ranked in the AP Top 25 in action, so while the slate in totality was a little lackluster, there was still a lot of information to process and plenty to glean from it all. And in true college hoops fashion, there were of course a few surprises, too. Like Florida State losing to Stetson? No. 14 TCU narrowly avoiding disaster to Arkansas-Pine Bluff? St. Thomas giving a better-than-expected scare to No. 9 Creighton?
Yeah, it was one of those nights in college hoops as the season officially got underway with a whole heap of chaos.
What we learned from the first day of action may not be hard and fast lessons by which we can project the rest of the season -- Creighton is still definitely going to the Final Four, TCU still has some shein as a plucky darkhorse in the Big 12 and Florida State surely will be better -- but a small sample size for now is all we've got to work with. So what kind of takeaways can we draw besides those we know one day into the season?
Here are six things we learned from the day that was.
Kentucky's Onyenso dominates inside...
When Ugonna Onyenso committed to Kentucky on Aug. 1 as a late addition to the Wildcats' 2022 recruiting class, it was easy to shrug off his addition as merely a long-term investment. After all, he was reclassifying from the Class of 2023 and not joining the Wildcats until after their chemistry-building summer trip to play four exhibition games in the Bahamas. But after his strong debut on Monday, it looks like Onyenso could help UK this season, if needed. With reigning national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe on the mend from a knee surgery and 6-foot-9 sophomore Daimion Collins out for personal reasons, Onyenso logged 20 minutes and made a significant defensive impact in UK's 95-63 win. The 6-11 Nigeria native blocked four shots and altered a few more while making 3 of 4 shots from the floor.
Though Tshiebwe's return will lessen the need for Onyenso to log significant minutes early in his career, it's clear he brings an element of rim protection that may otherwise be lacking from Kentucky's rotation. Junior forward Lance Ware is a good shot blocker and Tshiebwe averaged 1.6 blocks per game last season, but the Wildcats finished 11th in the SEC in blocks per game last season. With a 7-5 wingspan, Onyenso can help UK immediately in that regard. Perhaps he is a long-term project who will ultimately blossom once Tshiebwe departs, but the early returns suggest he can contribute immediately as well.
...and opens it up for UK shooters
Kentucky finished 297th nationally in made 3-pointers per game last season with just 6.1 as the Wildcats scored a larger percentage of their points inside the arc than any team that played in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The early returns suggest this team will be improved from the perimeter, thanks largely to a pair of sharpshooting transfers. Antonio Reeves drilled 6 of 12 attempts from beyond the arc in his UK debut while leading the No. 4 Wildcats with 22 points in a 95-63 victory vs. Howard. The former Illinois State guard hit 39% of his attempts from deep while playing in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. Fellow sharpshooting transfer CJ Fredrick finished with 20 points while hitting 2 of 5 attempts from deep as Kentucky combined to make 11 of 24 attempts from 3-point range.
The Wildcats made 19 of 41 attempts from 3-point range in their first two games of last season before reality set in and the outside struggles began. So this team will need to prove that it can sustain the outside shooting over the long haul as the schedule toughens and opponents get a better scouting report on UK's strengths. But it was an encouraging start, especially since point guard Sahvir Wheeler was not on the floor facilitating open looks and Tshiebwe was not on the floor drawing double teams.
ANTONIO. THREEVES.@ToniooReeves - 19 PTS, 5 3PT pic.twitter.com/lQ1bAORQYw— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 8, 2022
Gonzaga's Timme is going to feast
Less than 24 hours into a new season, certain folks should be feeling very, very good about their Drew Timme selections for NPOY. With Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard off to the NBA the expectation is that he is going to be Gonzaga's all-everything this season, and one game into the season that appears to be correct. He feasted against an overmatched North Florida team for 22 points in a game the No. 1 Zags had well in control by halftime and won 104-63. Julian Strawther and Malachi Smith are going to be pivotal pieces for the Bulldogs' prospects, but this team is going to go as Timme goes -- and it sure looks like he's going to go supernova this season.
Teams replacing Hall of Famers start hot
Kyle Neptune and Jon Scheyer are in the rather unenviable positions of replacing Hall of Famers at Villanova (Jay Wright) and Duke (Mike Krzyzewski), respectively, but Neptune and Scheyer can both boast 100% win percentages in their new positions after a strong start to the season Monday. Neptune's No. 16 Nova team let La Salle linger a little longer than it should've, but cruised to an 81-68 win in their opener. Meanwhile, Scheyer and No. 7 Duke dominated Jacksonville -- doing so without five-star freshmen Dereck Lively and Dariq Whitehead -- in a 71-44 victory.
Michigan's Howard is legit
If you've listened loyally to the Eye on College Basketball podcast over the past few months, you've heard Gary Parrish rave about Michigan freshman Jett Howard. The 6-7 forward finished recruiting cycle ranked as the No. 45 overall prospect by 247Sports, but Parrish has been adamant that Howard will be among the nation's top freshmen while playing under his father in the Big Ten.
Howard's debut should only add to the buzz. He finished with 21 points and 5 assists on 8 of 15 shooting, including a 5 of 10 mark from beyond the arc, as the Wolverines handled Purdue Fort Wayne 75-56. When Purdue Fort Wayne closed with 61-49 with under seven minutes to play, Howard responded with the game's next eight points to end any drama. After a relatively underwhelming season from last year's No. 3 ranked recruiting class headlined by five-star prospects Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate, there should be hope after Monday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that the Wolverines may have scooped up a potential all-conference freshman this time around in Howard.
Jett Howard is for real. 😲@JettHoward5 x @umichbball pic.twitter.com/w7Ad2cVf2M— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 8, 2022
Bryant, James Madison post hilariously lopsided wins
Two mid-majors showed they can score points in bunches as James Madison blasted Division III foe Valley Forge 123-38 -- nearly a year to the day that it beat Carlow 135-40 in a similarly lopsided nonconference beatdown. Hours later, Bryant got the best of Thomas in an even bigger margin, inning 147-39 and outscoring Thomas 73-17 in the second half. Bryant's 147 points are the most it has scored in a game since at least 2010 and its 39 points allowed are the fewest in a game in that same span.